Monday, 17 December 2012

Vegan Chili Pone (Texas Chili Con Carne Casserole with Cornbread)

This month is Southern USA month, and I feel like it wouldn't be complete without a shoutout to the American phenomenon of "chili". Because I'm focusing on Southern USA, of course I'm talking this time about "Texas Chili". This is a dish which presents a challenge to non meat eaters. Why? Because Texans are adamant that Chili should not contain beans (more is the pity!). I'm also allergic to capsicum which means that is out for me as well. So if I remove the meat and capsicum from my Chili and I'm not allowed to put beans in - what am I left with?? Tomatoes, onions and chilli. Not really enough to work with.

So I decided to substitute the meat with bulghur, which has a similar chewy 'minced' sort of texture. It doesn't taste like beef of course, but I put in a bit of beef stock (no animal content) to try and beef it up a bit. Excuse the pun. Since it was a pretty simple Chili, I decided to make it into a 'Chili Pone' (I'm not sure how that is pronounced - is it pone to rhyme with cone?). I'd never heard of this before, but it was suggested to me by a reader when I started featuring Southern USA food. Chili Pone is a casserole of Chili topped with cornbread, which sounded right up my alley because I love cornbread!

I've made cornbread for this blog before, my Razlevjak (Bosnian Cornbread).But I'm always happy for an excuse to experiment with cornbread! A few things I should point out about it - firstly, American cornbread it made with cornmeal. Cornmeal is slightly finer ground than polenta and slightly coarser than maize flour (not to be confused with cornflour/cornstarch which is the white powder used for thickening). As far as I'm aware I've never seen this cornmeal as defined this way in stores in Australia. I have access to maize flour, corn starch and polenta. So, I used polenta because I didn't have any cornmeal and because I love the textured corny taste that polenta gives to cornbread.

Secondly, I was told adamantly by an American that Southern cornbread is unsweetened, so despite the fact that most of the Southern Cornbread recipes I found on the internet involved adding sugar, I left out the sugar.

The result? The cornbread casserole idea is genius and I'm going to make so many more casseroles with cornbread on top now! The Chili turned out delicious, although, I have to say would have been even better with some beans in it :)

Southern USA Chili Pone


Bulghur Chili
2 tbsp oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeño chilli, fresh or preserved
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp smoky paprika
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup bulghur
6 tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
1 cup strong beef stock (use a vegetable based stock powder such as Massel)
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground flaxseeds
1 cup flour
1 cup polenta
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup baking powder
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup water

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and jalapeño, and sauté a further 2 minutes.
3. Add the dry spices and cook for another 30 seconds then add the bulghur and stir to coat with the spice mix.
4. Add the tomatoes, oregano, beef stock, soy sauce and tomato paste. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook, covered, for 20 minutes.
5. To make the cornbread: combine the soy milk, apple cider vinegar and ground flaxseeds. Whisk together and set aside for about 5 minutes to curdle and thicken.
6. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and stir well. Make a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the soy milk. oil and water. Mix well until it forms a smooth batter.
7. Once the Chili is cooked, remove from heat and transfer to a medium sized casserole dish. Spoon the cornbread batter over the top of the Chili. It doesn't have to be too neat, as the cornbread will expand and rise to create an even covering as it cooks.
8. Bake, uncovered, in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cornbread is crisp and golden. Serve.

This dish can also be made in advance and reheated in the oven. It is important, however, to always reheat the dish (and the leftovers) in the oven, otherwise the cornbread will go soggy!

Serves 4-6.


  1. Another good'un! Will try the recipe some time this week I hope.
    Pone rhymes with phone as far as I know.
    I've been having a think about the beef subsitute. I might use cooked barley soaked in tamari. Or minced mushrooms. Or the maghrebi style couscous that is large like peas. But in the end I'd probably prefer beans, and I don't care how many Texans I offend. Black beans are very much part of the cuisine thereabouts anyway.

    1. I think the mushrooms would be really tasty in this. I agree with you about the beans, I am definitely adding beans the next time I make this!

      Let me know how yours goes if you make it!

  2. I love this kind of food Keely. The casserole looks so tasty, I think your Southern USA month is genius, really enjoying your posts.

  3. I am about to marry a Southerner so I think this would go down a treat!